Well that was a thoroughly dispiriting and disheartening display by the Blues today. I have been Ecks biggest supporter and remain a fan, but over recent weeks it has been a bit like watching Blues under Bruce. When he arrived, Eck said he wanted the players to have the confidence to use the ball wisely, be patient with it and pass it around, calmly, rather than just keep hoofing the thing up the park, only for it to come straight back again, and for panic to ensue. After his first game, he said that it was nice to see them trying to pass it around, but there had been a bit too much of it.
A wiser man than me might then have wondered if Eck had the courage of his convictions, although it seemed obvious to me that he had identified that our players were not actually good enough to play that kind of game. One wonders, however, how much work has been done with them to improve things. Not much, by the look of it, either that, or Eck just has no faith at all in their abilities. Over recent weeks, we have panicked and it has been like watching the old Blues, the Steve Bruce Blues.
As soon as the opposition attack us, or pressure us, or put us under sustained questioning, we revert to type and we abandon all thoughts of the passing game. It isn't even hoofball, the players just get rid of the ball as soon as they can, they shift it on, inevitably straight back to an opponent. Ridiculously, our panic sets in most obviously when we have taken the lead. When I was a nipper and got in scraps, I was always a bit reluctant to hurt the other bugger in case I made him really mad. I think Blues are like that: they score, then think to themselves, oh shit, we are in for it now.
The biggest disappointment for me has been the dislocation of the various elements of the team. Just as with Bruce, there is little cohesion. The mid fielders play too far away from the forwards, so whenever the ball is pinged up, the forward is isolated, battling with hairy arsed defenders and desperately waiting for the cavalry to arrive, by which time all impetus and momentum has been lost. Not that it happens often, as our forward
It isn't quite as bad as under Bruce though. For all his faults, Muamba does quite often try to carry the ball out. Even though he will as often as not lose it, this is preferable to just passing it straight back to them. At least Muamba makes them work to get the ball back and allows time for the rest of our midfield and the full backs to get up the field to support the strikers. Then we have Mcfadden, who has a good touch and a subtle way with the ball, although he was poor today, and Eck is unafraid to play two such players by including Kapo in his team, or, on occasion, Zarate.
Blues fans have been pretty irate regarding our failure to sign a decent centre half in the window, and quite right too, it was a fatal error of judgement, but in the players he did sign in the window, it seems evident that he wants players, rather than battlers. It is a pity, mind you, that Murphy seems to be a bit out of his depth. I remain optimistic about Eck, I like the cut of his jib. I like his footballing philosophy and I like the way he talks up our potential, as opposed to saying that we should be grateful for the smallest crumbs off the rich mans table.
But today was gut wrenching. Fulham may have been on a bit of a run, but they started the day second from bottom. At this late stage of the season there is only one reason for that, they are crap. But we managed only two efforts against them all game, neither of which troubled the Fulham keeper, who may well have enjoyed the most relaxing afternoon of his career. To not even trouble the bugger, in a game of this importance, was heartbreaking.
Again, I blame the dislocation and lack of coherence from front to back. We had a poor start to the game, but settled after about ten minutes and I thought we seemed to be playing reasonably well and getting players into the box quicker than usual, but still there was no coherence, and the longer the game went on, the less likely it seemed were our chances of scoring. Eck really has to sort this out. I will give him the benefit of the doubt as this is still, largely, Bruces team, but we have to be better, much better, and more intelligent than we have been of late, whatever division we find ourselves in.
As much as I grew weary of Bruce, and leaving aside the fact that I have lost all respect for him since he left us, it is obvious that we are in our current predicament because of the board. The useless, useless, venal, hypocritical and despicable board. They have no affinity with the fans, no sense of the clubs history and no intention of giving us a team we can be proud of. They truly believe that we have no right to expect to be able to challenge such giants of the game as Wigan, Reading, Bolton or Portsmouth.
Some fans (a diminishing band) will forgive them anything, because they saved our skins all those years ago. I won't. I hate the bastards. They may have saved us, but I believe if it wasn't them it would have been someone else. They have always viewed the club and the fans as nothing more than a cash cow. They are supposed to have given us a magnificent stadium, but it is a shit stadium, and still isn't finished. When they see a fan, they do not see an individual. They do not see a working bloke who loves his club, who has suffered and made sacrifices for his club and whose whole family history is intimately entwined with that of the Blues. They see a money making opportunity. Fuck them.
They won't be around much longer, I am convinced of that. When they arrived we were getting gates of about 12000, I think. I remember the first game of their regime, a 1-0 loss against Bristol City attended by 18000. When they go, we will probably be getting about 18000 again, in a miserable, half finished stadium. What a fucking legacy. Still at least Sully's nippers will be able to afford a decent fish supper.
It's not all doom and gloom though. Wrap your ears around some Bon Iver. You can thank me later.
Two of my late seventies heroes and inspirations are featured in todays Guardian, Jonathan Richman and John Cooper Clarke, though I can't find the Clarke piece.